PHILADELPHIA - The Penn women's fencing team came within one touch of a perfect 5-0 start to its season at last month's Vassar Invitational. That 14-13 loss to Temple is on the minds of all involved as the Quakers and Owls renew pleasantries in the day's final bout this Saturday at the Penn State Invitational. Prior to that, the Red and Blue will tangle with Duke, North Carolina, the host Nittany Lions, and Haverford.
The centerpiece of the team, the foil squad, collected points in 35 out of 45 opportunities at last month's Vassar Invitational. Last year's national runner-up, Luona Wang, has opened her sophomore season with an individual title at Penn State's Garret Open in November and a perfect 9-0 mark at Vassar. At the same time, only the epee squad was able to post wins in all five bouts last month. Senior Amrit Bhinder went 8-2 at Vassar while freshman Sara Jones posted 10 wins in 11 chances.
Though a clean sweep of Saturday's five matches is possible, it will be far from easy. Of Penn's five opponents, four return at least one fencer who competed in last season's NCAA Championships, and three return at least two. The day opens against Duke at 8:30 a.m. The Quakers were able to claim a 15-12 win against the Blue Devils last season, but the Blue Devils bring back Sarah Collins and Emily D'Agostino, each of whom advanced in epee to the NCAA Championships a year ago. A matchup with North Carolina follows at 9:40 a.m.
Perhaps the toughest test of the day will come at 10:50 a.m., when the Quakers take to the strips against Penn State. The Nittany Lions return top-class talent in each weapon group with Nicole Glon (ninth in saber), Alina Antokhina (semifinalist in foil) and Margherita Guzzi Vincenti (national runner-up in epee) all returning after strong showings in last season's NCAA Championships.
The afternoon begins with a 12:30 p.m. meeting against Haverford before Penn closes the day at 2:50 p.m. with its second matchup of the young season against Temple. Foilist Mikayla Varadi and Jillian Bratton in epee lead the Owls as the Quakers look to flip the script and come away with a win over their Broad Street rival.
Following the Penn State Invitational, the Quakers will have two weeks off from competition before they travel to Temple for the Philadelphia Invitational. That all-day event will begin at 8 a.m. on Jan. 26.